Frequently Asked Questions about Testing and Treatment
I was exposed to someone with COVID-19. What should I do?
For 10 days after your last exposure, wear a mask when you are around others indoors.
Get tested at least five full days after your last exposure – even if you don’t develop symptoms.
If you start to feel sick, isolate immediately and get tested.
Learn more about what to do if you were exposed to COVID-19.
What kind of test is right for me?
You can either get tested at a testing location or you can get a test to take at home. In either case, you’re likely to take a rapid test that gives you results in minutes.
Consider visiting one of North Carolina’s Test to Treat sites where you can get tested and receive treatment if you are eligible. It’s the best way to speed up the healing process if you have COVID-19.
Enter your zip code to find a Test to Treat location near you:
Learn more about available treatments and find out what to do if you feel sick here.
Don’t forget to wear your mask when picking up your test or getting tested. If you aren't well enough to go out, call your healthcare provider or call 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489).
You can get rapid, at-home tests in your community, or you can get them shipped to you.
The FDA has a list of all approved tests. The list includes information about who can use the tests, the shelf life of each test, and more.
Learn more about home testing including how to take tests at home.
If you need a test right away, there are tests available at no cost to you – even if you don’t have insurance. Just search for a free testing location or pick up an at-home test anywhere they are available. And remember, they can’t ask about your immigration status.
If you aren’t in a hurry to get tested, or if you want to stock up on tests for the future, you can order tests by mail – free of charge – here.
Don’t have insurance? You may be eligible to have your COVID-19 vaccine, testing and treatment covered at no-cost by Medicaid, even if you are not currently a Medicaid beneficiary. Apply online.
You can get a PCR test – a more sensitive type of test – at community testing sites. You can also go to your healthcare provider if you have one.
While rapid tests are a good indicator of the presence of COVID-19, PCR tests are especially important if you don’t have symptoms because they are able to detect smaller amounts of the virus.
There is no “right” test for returning to work. Rather, each employer decides for itself which – if any – test is necessary before coming back to the office. Reach out to your company to find out what they require.
If you need a negative test to travel, you likely need a PCR test. However, keep in mind:
- The CDC doesn’t require testing before traveling into the US from a foreign country
- Only some foreign countries still require proof of a negative test before traveling there
Check with your airline, cruise line, or your destination’s official site before scheduling your test. And visit the CDC International Travel page for up-to-date information on travel requirements.
There’s no “right” test for returning to school. Check with your school to find out their specific requirements.
Schools across the state are offering COVID-19 tests through the StrongSchoolsNC program. Visit the StrongSchools website to see if your child’s school is participating.
Where can I get tested, pick up tests, and/or get treatment?
Use our COVID-19 test locator to find testing sites, Test to Treat locations, where to get tests to take at home, and more.
Some testing locations offer treatment, as well. These Test to Treat locations could be your best option for quick care – especially if you feel sick.
If you don't have insurance or a regular doctor, you can still get helped at a Test to Treat location. You may be charged a fee, so call first to find out. If you do feel sick, please wear a mask.
Yes. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19, you should get tested as soon as possible. Even if you’ve been vaccinated and boosted.
Have private insurance coverage?
Your health plan likely allows you to get up to eight at-home rapid tests per month per person. The test will either be free at the time of sale or reimbursed through your insurance. If you pay upfront, be sure to keep your receipt and submit a claim.
You can get at-home tests online, through a pharmacy or at a store. Check your insurance's policy on at-home test reimbursement:
Don't see your health insurance provider listed? Please check their website.
Have Medicaid coverage?
North Carolina Medicaid program guidelines allow you to get free at-home COVID rapid tests at no cost. Beneficiaries can select at-home tests at your preferred pharmacy and show your NC Medicaid ID card for no out-of-pocket cost. The pharmacist will bill Medicaid on your behalf.
Questions? Contact Medicaid and NC Health Choice Claims and Billing at (800)-688-6696.
Have Medicare coverage?
You can access testing through your health care provider or local pharmacist. Or, pick up free at-home rapid tests at Medicare-certified health clinics.
Currently, original Medicare does not pay for at-home tests for individuals’ purchases. However, Medicare Advantage plans may offer coverage and payment for at-home COVID-19 tests. If you're covered by Medicare Advantage, be sure to check your plan.
NCDHHS encourages all N.C. schools to offer COVID-19 testing through our StrongSchoolsNC testing program, though schools are not required to participate.
To learn more about your school’s COVID-19 testing program, please contact your school office or check to see if your school is participating in the StrongSchoolsNC testing program.
Some employers might offer COVID-19 testing for their employees, but it’s not required and it’s not managed by the state of North Carolina. The best way to find out if your office or workplace offers testing is to reach out to your employer directly.
I got tested. Now what?
If you got tested at a testing site or healthcare provider’s office, they will contact you with test results or tell you where you can go to find the results yourself.
If you sent a PCR home-test kit for processing, check the instructions that came with the kit to find out where the results will be sent.
If you took a rapid test at home, you’ll have those results right away.
Note: You cannot get test results by calling 2-1-1
While a positive test confirms you have an infection, a negative test only shows that it didn’t detect the virus but does not rule out an infection. So, here’s what you should consider after receiving a negative COVID-19 test result.
Follow current CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines if:
- You were tested because you have symptoms.
- A health care provider thinks you have COVID-19, even with a negative test.
- You were tested because of known contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Resume regular activities if:
- You were tested for another reason, like workplace screening.
- You do not have known or suspected contact with someone who has COVID-19.
- You have no symptoms.
Here’s what you should do if you receive a positive COVID-19 test result:
- Stay home for at least five (5) days and stay away from others in your home
- Tell your close contacts that you have COVID-19. Learn more about contact tracing.
- Wear a well-fitting mask if you must be around others
Treatments are available, and research shows they decrease your risk of hospitalization and death — if you get them in time. Don’t wait to see if your symptoms get worse. If you feel sick, even a little, take steps to get treated now.
Getting treatment may cost nothing, so there’s no reason to delay.
Here are 3 ways to get treatment:
- Call your doctor who will recommend the best course of action
- Go to a Test to Treat site where you can get tested and treated in one visit
- If you don't know where to go, call 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489).
If you tested at home, you can take your results to a Test to Treat center and get evaluated for treatment even faster.
Note: Seek medical care immediately if you have trouble breathing or experience other warning signs.
Test result times depend on the type of test you’ve taken and where you took the test:
- Tests administered on-site by a provider may have results available in less than an hour
- Rapid at-home tests give results in minutes (though the exact time varies by test brand)
- Other tests, like PCR collection kits, must go to a lab. Results may take a few hours to a few days.
When you get tested, talk with the provider or lab about how long it will take to get your results.
Note: Test results are not available by calling 2-1-1
Since there are many reasons to get tested, it depends. Here’s what you need to know:
- If you have symptoms or were exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home and avoid others. Visit our What to Do If You Feel Sick page for more information.
- If you do not have symptoms and were not exposed, you do not need to stay home unless your employer or a health provider told you to.
Treatments are available if you’re sick, and research shows they work, decreasing your risk of hospitalization and death–if you get them in time. Don’t wait to see if your symptoms get worse. If you feel sick, even a little, take steps to get tested and treated now. Getting treatment may cost nothing, so there’s no reason to delay.
Here are 3 ways to get treatment:
- Call your doctor who will recommend the best course of action.
- Go to a Test to Treat site where you can get tested and treated in one visit.
- If you don't know where to go, call 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489).
There are a few treatment options currently available for people who are likely to get very sick from COVID-19:
- Antivirals, which are pills, must be started within 5 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms. They require a prescription.
- Other treatments may be available and must be taken shortly after COVID-19 symptoms begin.
If you have symptoms, don’t wait, seek testing right away and talk to a healthcare provider.
North Carolina Cares About Your Privacy
NCDHHS and the COVID-19 Community Team will not release names or other identifiable information to anyone. Personal information is strictly confidential and is treated as a private health record.
To see how North Carolina tracks key trends and metrics, visit the NC COVID-19 dashboard.